You wouldn’t immediately draw comparisons between the man charged with creating the next piece of England football history, Gareth Southgate, and the man given the task of resetting a League Two outfit, Dean Austin (especially in their respective characters) but the last few weeks of World Cup build up has turned a lot of people on to what some probably knew all along with Southgate and what we and Austin can take on board in the coming months.
Southgate has changed many a mind over the months leading up to Russia and while his team still have plenty to do to match achievements of the past there’s been an evidential move towards the acceptance and joy in what he’s trying to do with his group of players. His idea of the collective over the individual, never evident more than in his dropping of Wayne Rooney (perhaps the final bastion of the latest superstar era) should be applauded not matter what the outcome of the knockout stages.
He’s insisted that everyone get a fair crack of the whip in his squad and wasn’t afraid of the bad press or questioning of his line up for the final group game against Belgium. Players have been given their World Cup moment that they may never get again thanks to the rotation and the likes of Trent Alexander-Arnold in particular would surely have been revelling inside at lining up for a World Cup outing at the age of nineteen. Try telling him that this was a ‘second string.’
Southgate’s promoting of young players like Alexander-Arnold to the grandest stage came without a fanfare and instead arrived in a more in a matter-of-fact manner that appears to have given them the right balance between having the freedom to play and the knowledge and confidence that they are good enough and can own their place at the top table.
The way he’s conducted himself in the post Allardyce world of England management means that most of us are now looking back at Allardyce’s slip up as a blessing in disguise. Can any of us have imagined this World Cup creating as much buzz in the country with Big Sam at the helm? Would we have ever won a group game 6-1 under his watch? Highly doubtful.
We, as Cobblers fans, have seen these ideas come to life earlier this summer, albeit in a shorter and more intense period of time. But if you’re looking for comparisons for a burst of passion, a sudden ownership of identity and a logical and level headed leader then you can do worse than look at our very own management.
The return of Town’s players and staff this week reminded us of that extraordinary finale to the league season where the Cobblers were relegated but sent down fighting and Austin’s return to the spotlight is a welcome addition to the summer considering that England are still ploughing away over in Russia. It may not still be the case by the time we conclude the first friendly of the summer on Tuesday night around 45 minutes after the end of England’s clash with Columbia but we can, of course, dream of a larger cross over of club and country.
It only seems like yesterday that Austin sent his men out ‘hunting’ at Walsall but the early signs are that full time management hasn’t changed him a bit and that we’re in for one heck of a ride under his stewardship.
Just as Southgate has seemingly reinvigorated his England players, staff and fans, Austin has the ability and pride to do the same in the build-up to and start of the 2018/19 season that looms almost a month from now. The comparisons in the respective camps are numerous.
For Alexander-Arnold see the fearless nature of Shaun McWilliams entering the fray – eventually, after an inexplicable and infuriating spell out of Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink’s plans – under Austin. No-one echoed the characteristics of his manager more than the midfielder who has every chance to become a major player in the Cobblers’ plans next season. There’s also the emergence of Morgan Roberts and Shaun Whaler, brought through in a similarly no-nonsense way by Austin and his excellent youth team staff as England’s young lions have been.
Just as Southgate has created a sense of calm authority, Austin re-enters the stage with similar ideals. While his nature is perhaps a bit grittier there are still signs of a similar steely authority to the England boss. Austin’s week has been spent putting his team through the pre-season rigors and there seems no sign of letting up from last season’s belief in his group of players.
And finally, Austin continues to be a fresh voice when conducting media and press duties. Nothing of the Austin of the caretaker manager era has been lost in the summer break and it sounds as if he’s been comping at the bit to get back at it.
Togetherness, drive, a focus on youth and a manager at the helm to be proud of and look up to – both England and Northampton Town seem in very good hands for the rigours to come.